The anned resistance movement in Irian Jaya between the indigenous Melanesian West Papuans and the Indonesian military government has persisted for 30 years, despite the lack of international support for the West Papuan OPM (Organisasi: Papua Merdeka - Free Papua Movement) and the disinterest of the outside world. West Papuans are resisting ethnocide and forced incorporation into the Indonesian state; they identify with a pan-Melanesian nationalism in the Southwest Pacific where other movements, in New Caledonia and Bougainville, continue to challenge colonial and post-colonial governments.
In 1984, reaction to intense military action and extensive land take-over for transmigration schemes caused over 10,000 refugees to flee from Irian Jaya into Papua New Guinea. This forced some acknowledgment of the problem but the fate of the refugees has not been resolved This thesis examines the situation of refugees who have waited for nearly a decade for a resolution of their predicament.
Fieldwork was carried out at the East Awin refugee camp in Papua New Guinea where refugees were forcibly relocated away from the Irian Jaya/Papua New Guinea border. The possibility of future sustainability of the camp site and environmental problems associated with large-scale settlement were investigated. Refugees were well aware of the problems; their insecurity was increased by the failure of the Papua New Guinea government to finalise the purchase of the land from the local landowners. This lack of a sustainable subsistence and legally approved land base means that a permanent, independent settlement at East Awin is unlikely. Projects designed to assist refugees to integrate into the wider community were studied in Port Moresby. The persistent refusal of a Third country to accept them, world-wide economic recession, exacerbated in Papua New Guinea by the close-down of the Bougainville copper mine, means that refugees who leave the camps also face a bleak future.